Jade Equipment Probe Continues, Details Sparse

By Nyein Nyein 5 January 2016

Two weeks after the government launched an investigation into illegal vehicle imports related to the jade trade in northern Burma’s Kachin State, authorities have yet to disclose any firm details about their findings.

Last week the government-led investigation team, spearheaded by Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry Win Tun, launched a probe into the involvement of several Kachin State government officials including the state’s chief minister and two members of his cabinet.

Rumors abounded in local media that Kachin State Chief Minister Lajon Ngan Hsai had been sacked after his interrogation by the investigation team, though Zaw Htay, director of the President’s Office, has yet to provide further insight into the matter.

“The case is still under investigation, and we can’t yet say anything for certain,” Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

Naung Tain, assistant to the chief minister, denied that Lajon Ngan Hsai had been fired, stating that he was still at work in his office in the state capital of Myitkyina. The staffer declined to comment further on the ongoing investigation.

State media reported in December that the Ministry of Commerce had seized some 700 illegally imported trucks in Kachin State and had suspended use of the Kan Pai Tee border checkpoint where trucks had supposedly entered the country.

Hpakant locals, spurred by an increase in the number of dump trucks in the area, protested what they described as intensified government-backed jade mining efforts before President Thein Sein leaves office in a few months.

The investigation follows a devastating November landslide that shook Hpakant and claimed the lives of at least 114 prospectors searching for jade residue at a mine site. A smaller landslide left dozens of others believed to be dead on Dec. 25 at a nearby mining site.

A toxic triumvirate of deadly landslides, environmentally damaging extraction and the illegal import of machinery has sparked public outrage and calls to ramp-up safety measures.